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City council discusses masks, vandalism and fire

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Mask-wearing enforcement, vandalism and fire preparedness dominated the Portola City Council meeting July 22.

Signs remind Portola residents to wear masks, and for now city officials will refrain from implementing punitive measures if residents are seen not wearing them. During their last meeting, council members had asked City Manager Lauren Knox to research enforcement options, but Wednesday during night’s meeting, council members said they had observed better compliance.

“Since our last council meeting I’m seeing a lot more conformance with mask wearing,” said Councilman Tom Cooley and he named several local stores. “I have seen no confrontational situations.” He added that the “subject is not as high on my radar” and “don’t move forward on enforcement.”

Councilman Stan Peiler said that he agreed with Cooley. “The more people wear masks, the more people will follow.”

Councilwoman Pat Morton said that she observed a family of five approach Leonard’s Market, but when they saw the face mask requirement sign, those who did not have a face mask returned to their vehicle.

In addition to individuals wearing face masks, Councilman Bill Powers mentioned business compliance and he described the three-step process that occurs: first visit – education; second visit – law enforcement visit; third visit – possible citation.

While the council ultimately chose not to pursue face mask enforcement at this time, Cooley told City Manger Knox, “Don’t throw out the work — should we need to revisit this.”

During an interview following the meeting, Knox said that she had researched what surrounding areas and other jurisdictions had done to help with compliance. She said there are a number of approaches to be considered such as would the city be “proactive or reactive.”

Vandalism and other city concerns

Boulders and trash on the tennis courts, a broken net, garbage strewn across the skatepark, graffiti at multiple sites, crawdads in the porta-potties, tipped over porta potties, a rock through the clock tower and a broken solar light … those were some of the items that Manager Knox enumerated as she discussed the vandalism that has plagued the city.

Knox said that the vandalism, which happens nearly daily, has forced public works staff to devote their time to cleaning up the messes and repairing the damage rather than working on their projects.

The city has cameras in place and have focused on educating youth, but Knox asked the council members for their thoughts on what additional steps could be taken.

Stan Peiler suggested that the city post signs that include the consequences that could be faced for vandalism. Following the meeting Knox indicated that new cameras have been ordered with superior filming capability to help identify the vandals.

Signs are also going to be erected to help slow traffic on Gulling Street as the city has received numerous complaints about speeding on that roadway.

Knox announced that the city pool is being painted during the coronavirus closure, and that a new street sweeper attachment should be arriving soon.

Fire preparedness

Carissa Bradley, a CivicSpark Climate Fellow with the Sierra Business Council, presented her work on wildfire preparedness for the city and the next steps on the project. She described three guidebooks that had been developed with the Ready, Set, Go theme used by CalFire.

Now that they were ready, the council discussed how to best distribute them, but some on the council worried that crucial information — such as evacuation plans and routes — was not included.

Councilwoman Pat Morton asked, “There’s only one bridge. What if it’s blocked?”

City Manager Lauren Knox said it was decided early on in the project, that such information — the technical piece — wouldn’t be completed by Bradley, which was outside of her purview.

It was decided that the council would review the information, make some changes and try to incorporate a technical piece into the materials.






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